Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Cupboard Full of Coats Review

A Cupboard full of Coats is powerful and well told debut novel from Yvette Edwards which was long listed for the 2011 Booker prize.  
I have to confess, I finished the book and flipped back through the pages to re-read the poetry in her words!
Yvette wrote with heart and sensitivity about a topic we are becoming very familiar with – domestic violence. But this time we look at the violence through the eyes of an indirect victim – a child.
Jinx was a 16yr girl who had lived most of her life cocooned in the safety and surety of her mother’s love (her father had died when she was 4).
Then her mother started a relationship with Berris. Their once tranquil London home was no more as Berris staked his authority with fists and belts, while his best friend Lemon watched on.
And when death happened, it was unexpected yet fated.

The plot navigated between the events in Jinx’s present and 14yrs ago when the tragedy occurred. Though the chapters were not dated, I found it easy to recognize which period I was in.

In a way it was a coming of age story, but it also touched on maternal/child relationships (Jinx struggle to love her own child was as painful and awkward for the reader as it must have been for her), friendship and betrayal (male/male, female/female), and the malignant feelings of hatred, blame, guilt which remain in the lives of all who witness domestic abuse.
The author’s characterizations made this book extra special. You had a feel of each character and are curious to know the whys and whats about them (Lemon was the most enigmatic with all the demons from his past hounding his present. I wanted to hate him soo much but yet couldn’t). I loved the suspense too. The author kept hinting at a climactic revelation and I was not let down when I finally got to it.

It was also about West Indies food. I wanted to taste every meal prepared by Lemon. I licked my lips and tongue wiped imaginary Plates. Lol.
Even something as simple as pumpkin soup sounded like ambrosia. I think I might try that recipe soon.

I could go on and on about this book, lol. Hope her next book is as good as this!

“There was a time if my mother had said 'we' she’d have meant me and her. Now it was them. She was still a part of we; it was me who wasn’t. 'They' used to be other people, those who lived outside our home. Now they were inside, it was me and them.”
"I couldn’t get the questions out of my head. Like, what could make a big man like Berris punch my mom in the face? How could he have looked at my beautiful mom and done that, then calmly sat downstairs and eaten? From what I saw, she did everything he wanted, tried her best to be perfect for him. I could think of nothing she could have done or said that made sense of how he had manhandled her."

"And the tears, the ones that had set us up the first time, the ones that had seemed so much like the real McCoy, that had made me felt sympathy when I should have felt fury, made her take him back when she should have banished him forever – those crocodile tears were history. He no longer stormed out or bawled or looked ashamed or even sheepish when he did what he did. Or when he gave her the coats afterward.
He would watch her as she struggled to smile despite the pain, watch her twirling and spinning inside them, as if every gift she had ever been given in her life had followed on the tail of a roasting and she expected no different, and his face would be set with a smile that was smug and satisfied, his eyes when they met mine were challenging, daring me to say a word."

"..As for my mother, everything I’d ever felt for her, the envy, the confusion, the sympathy, the annoyance, the admiration, the frustration, the love, that man removed everyone of those feelings.
She’d stood by and let the man she had chosen, the man she had brought into my father’s house, wear himself out on my skin without lifting a finger to stop him, not even a word or gasp or whisper."


  1. You chose great excerpts; they definitely make me want to know more. I need to make time for fiction books in my life...I've been on a non-fiction kick for years now.

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